Sunday, December 03, 2006

Session 5 - Omens and Runebearers

Saturday, December 2, 2006 from 4:00 PM to 8:45 PM

This time around, only two players show up. Caroline, who plays Heinrietta Nagel, has flown out of town to Ontario. We enjoy our usual meal together before playing. One of our friends joined us, even though she isn't playing the Praemal Tales. We discuss and debate about various subjects, such as the value of advertisement in our society while enjoying freshly baked cheese sticks, two dishes of wild salmon (one baked in the oven with soy sauce and sesame seeds, the other with spices and tomatoes) and rice.

As usual, the food is incredible!

Baked salmon with soy sauce and sesame seeds.

We then resume our game.

Session 5 - Omens and Runebearers

5th of Rain

After Beket and Simone take care of their duties to the Observatory of the Watcher of the Skies and House Sadar respectively, both meet in front of the Ghostly Minstrel to decide on their next course of action. Hennie does not show up. She is probably busy due to her duties to the City Courts.

Beket and Simone decide to wander the streets and taverns of Ptolus for information. Sometimes, it is better to take the pulse of the city than stay cloistered in a library for hours. Hennie's not there, so they might just take it as an opportunity to avoid the dust of old parchments and ominous tomes of ancient lore, at least for now. They ask around for details on Zalathar Greycloak, the man who performed experiments on them, and more precisely about his family. Maybe the Greycloaks are (in)famous to the people of Ptolus, and if so, why are they?

They learn that the Greycloaks are harrow elves with a troubled history of magic and mayhem. Zaen Greycloak, Zalathar's father, was an elf with a passion for magical research. He would perform all kinds of experiments, and seemed to be quite extreme in the way he carried them out. For Zaen, the end justified the means. Some say he was involved with the wrong crowds, some Chaos Cult probably, and destroyed his family's unity in the process. It seems Zalathar hated his father and left the household early on. Whatever the reasons for such a family feud may have been, soon Zaen and his wife Ravana disappeared, never to be seen again from the folks of Ptolus.

Beket and Simone become increasingly worried about the sort of experiments Zalathar conducted on them. They decide to head for St. Gustav's Chapel in Midtown to see Petran Achenburg, the Cleric of Lothian and adventurer who originally hired them to hunt for Ratmen in the sewers.

While the girls explain to him what they discovered, Petran quickly realizes he has to commune with Lothian to find out more about their present condition. They spend the rest of the afternoon in the Chapel while Petran performs various rituals on them.

When the priest is done, he has some new insights on their puzzling situation. He explains that both Beket and Simone radiate magic, although the auras themselves are faint, almost unnoticeable through conventional means. He asks them to strip for him. Of course, both women hesitate to do so. Petran explains he has to have a look at their bodies but would understand if they would not agree. He has taken a sacred vow of chastity, and would not think for a moment to profit from the situation.

The girls agree and show their bodies to the priest. He gasps almost immediately, for both adventurers carry faint marks on their skins. Beket carries faint strands running down her back from her shoulders. These look like wings of some sort. Simone carries faint marks as well but these are around her wrists, up to her elbows. They vaguely look like flames. Both marks are just as intense as light sunburns but their hues are greenish. There is no trace of poison or rot tainting them.

Petran then asks them many questions about their childhoods, if they were subject to supernatural events early on, if they've been in dire situations in their lives that would just have turned out alright for no apparent reason than sheer luck. Both women answer by the negative. This seems extremely puzzling to the priest. He explains he knows about some people with such magical marks on their bodies, but these are people usually born with such traits. He's never heard of people who would actually develop such marks later in their lives. He also precises he hasn't found any trace of Transmutation or any clue that would point out towards an obvious alteration of their bodies alone. It seems their "transformation", for lack of a better word, is more spiritual than physical.

Beket and Simone decide they ought to understand better what these marks may be, and what people with such marks represent. They part for the night, their minds troubled by these new developments.

Simone gets back to House Sadar. Sayem Nadir, Speaker to the Spears of Aartuat, is the guest Simone should attend to, but he is not present at the Guest House. His eunuchs are, however: they treat the servants of House Sadar as if they do not know what commitment and service to their master truly means. This is a straining evening for her.

Beket goes back to the Temple of the Watcher of the Skies. She shares her concern with her aunt who serves as an acolyte there. As soon as she hears Beket's story, she mentions that Helmut Itlestein, the High Priest of the Watcher of the Skies, ought to examine her more closely. Maybe he could explain some things this unfaithful priest of St. Gustav's could not? Beket agrees, and they both head to the Observatory.

Helmut is there attending to some research of his own. When the women arrive and explain the reason of their intrusion, Helmut's behavior, which was absent-minded previously, becomes suddenly commanding and quite worrisome. He orders Beket to show her marks, gasps when she does so, walks to a table nearby, scatters star maps and personal notes on the floor and quickly grasps a feather to start drawing the patterns appearing on Beket's back. He then runs to the telescope and compares some notes with the sketch he just drew.

Beket's aunt is flabbergasted. Beket tries to asks Helmut for an explanation but the High Priest's reaction shows his deep annoyance. He just says she has to open her eyes to the stars and steps back from the telescope. Beket has a look. There, in the vast and dark immensity of the outer reaches, Beket looks at what the faithful call a nebula. Colors and pattern dance before her eyes. They are perfectly recognizable to her: they reflect the colors and pattern on her back. She asks to Helmut what this means, but the High Priest is dismissive, telling her he has to study the matter more closely. He storms out of the room with sketches and star maps, and the two women are left there, under the vast dome of the Observatory, wondering what exactly just happened.

6th of Rain

Beket and Simone meet the next day in front of the Delver's Guild Library and Map Room in Old Town. They discuss the reaction of the High Priest of the Watcher of the Skies and firmly decide this is time to get some answers. They step inside the Library and meet Shad Livbovic, the tower's designated librarian, who helps them find more information about major astral events that may have happened in the past and the relation there might be with some of the bearers of runes Petran was talking about.

They learn, through the diaries written by an arcane explorer of Ghul's ancient libraries, about the "Runebearers": how these mythical individuals seemed to be common place in the past of Praemal and how these were often seen as heroes and people of some important significance to the world. They also learn that major changes in the sky did occur in the past. There is the mention of a moon that disappeared from the sky long ago. The Vallis Moon. How these two phenomena may be linked, the author of the diaries doesn't say.

They spend their whole day within the Delver's Guild library. When they emerge from the tower, it is dusk already. Still more questions. There has to be a thread connecting all the dots.

Beket wants to forget about all their trouble and head for some tavern or whore house but Simone isn't in the mood for such trivialities. They argue at the corner of a street when a half-orc and two dwarves come to them and ask for their purses. The two women laugh at the request, and the half-orc's tone changes from a request to an order as he draws a short sword from his belt.

The fight against the half-orc and dwarves*

Beket and Simone have to fight for their lives. They struggle direly against these tough opponents. Simone falls unconscious at some point, but they are victorious at the very last moment when the half-orc finally succumbs from his wounds. One of the dwarves flees from the scene, and Beket manages to take care of the last courageous mugger. They loot the bodies without a second thought, and Beket realizes the sword of the half-orc is magical. Maybe these weren't simple muggers after all? Still more questions, and so few answers...

XP Breakdown
Characters are all Level 2.
- Asking the Right Questions (Gather Information/Knowledge checks) - CR2
- Defeating the streeet muggers - CR4
Total XP earned: 1,950. XP per PC: 975 (2 PCs).
Total XP earned (Beket and Simone): 3,100 XP.
Total XP earned (Hennie): 2,125 XP.
Beket and Simone level up.

DM's notes

I really appreciated this game session, particularly how the plot of the Praemal Tales so far interconnected with the PCs' backgrounds, and through them, with the materials of the City by the Spire. This is something I had not planned, and this is always a thrill to see unexpected events come out of a game session.

*Also, it was the first time Tiana (Simone) played through a fight without using miniatures. The picture included on this blog was taken after the game, to represent the situation of the characters at that moment. I am quite happy with the way it all went. I was afraid the use of miniatures and battlemaps would somehow lock the players' imaginations in such a way as to require the use of visual aids for combat. I was happily mistaken!